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Tempting the Bride by Sherry Thomas

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tempting the Bride
Fitzhugh Trilogy #3

Sherry Thomas
Historical Romance
Published in 2012

H/h - David Hillsborough, Viscount Hastings/Helena Fitzhugh
Setting: London, 1896.

Read in Oct, 2012.
My rating:

                                                  [spoiler alert]
He felt like a pilgrim standing on the shores of Lake Sahara, having walked barefoot over hundreds of miles, yet all the hardships forgotten, filled with only wonder and reverence at the marvel of it all.
I couldn’t help but starting with these above lines from Hastings or David’s musings because they struck me quite hard. Tempting the Bride could’ve been an excellent ending to the Fitzhugh Trilogy, even though the other two books were disappointing. But ST cheated me out of it by making it wayyy too short. I thought some aspects of David and Helena’s relationship, along with Helena’s relationship with Bea needed more exploration; a few more chapters would’ve been great!

If you haven’t read the other two books, you might because they’re connected. I’ll do a little recap here for you. The whole trilogy is about three Fitzhugh siblings; Venetia the eldest and the twin brother and sister, Fitz and Helena. In book 1, Beguiling the Beauty, we found Venetia’s story. Venetia is so beautiful that people bump into each-other just by staring at her. Venetia’s life hasn’t been an easy one sadly. People always took her by the face value. She’d been married twice and widowed, disillusioned in love by the first husband and from him, she bore the contempt of being barren. The second marriage was a bit complex than that. When she met the Duke of Lexington, aka, Christian, Venetia was trying to veer Helena’s, attentions to some worthy beaus from a married man. Helena has been ‘in love’ with this spineless thing, who courted her for a while but married the woman his mother wanted. Helena thought nothing can come between her and her ‘poor, dear’ Martin. *snort and eye-roll* It was revealed, through the spying of longtime family and Fitz’s best friend, David, that Helena is probably having an affair with Martin. I didn’t like Helena on-spot and it stayed that way. I also started out not liking Venetia. Then in book 1, she planned this ‘veiled seduction’ (pun intended) for Christian for a reason stupid at best. Poor guy, fell hard for her and mess ensued. He was always in love with Venetia but weirdly enough never met her face to face. With revelations after revelations (and a few betrayals) later, they fell in love, marry and now Venetia is pregnant (surprise!).

I liked book 1 enough, much better than the trash, that is book 2, Ravishing the Heiress. This was Fitz and his heiress wife, Millie, and an 8 yrs old story of unconsummated marriage, non-stop cheating from Fitz throughout (and ST’s relentless efforts to make us believe that he’s worth something... Didn’t work for me), his ‘love of life’ Isabelle the home-wrecker’s widowhood and subsequent return, Fitz’s remorseless plan of cheating that includes Isabelle, and Millie the saint doing everything to make them happy, because... because OMG, she has loved her own husband all these years and never thought she’s good enough.............. *takes deep breath* Never get me started on that piece of trash (I mean the characters and the plotline, NOT ST’s writing). I wanted to kill Fitz, puke on him more than once (for every freakin’ miserable thing he did to Millie), kick Isabelle outta story and shake Millie hard to come to her senses. I was plain MISERABLE!! So, no secret that I hated that book. But ooh, Fitz finally figures out that he wants Millie, his ‘friend of 8 yrs’ and not his supposed ‘love of life’, Isabelle. In the end, Isabelle returns to the house where they planned to ‘settle in’, heartbroken, while Fitz the spineless, cheating creep goes yapping back to Millie. And now they are so happy that I felt nauseous every time they showed up in the novella in Midnight Scandals, which was Isabelle’s story. I only keep thinking of Fitz’s cheating and I couldn’t believe Millie let him off the hook so easily! And he NEVER once even expressed any remorse over any it!

Anyway, Isabelle’s story takes place soon after book 2. Oddly enough I ended up liking it, thanks to the hero, Ralston. Yah, the plotline was ridiculous but I enjoyed the whole ‘ridiculousness’. Ralston was a dream come true and so was David.

I knew I’d love David since book 1. I just knew it. He was told to have been this unrepentant rake (with an illegitimate child no less!), who is nothing but an arrogant boor with the brain of a twit. And he loved taunting Helena, always. But, somewhere along the way I found that I like his arrogance, and his self-deprecating, sarcastic comments. I LOVED those banters between him and Helena since book 1. Helena can’t stand the shadow of him, but soon it was revealed that David is, in truth, madly in love with her but has never expressed it. Martin was actually David’s Eton buddy, and he’s the one who introduced the weak guy to Helena. I would NEVER understand what Helena really saw in him. But I begin to see that David is not at all what he lets others see. By book 2, we found that he paints and draws... and he writes Erotica! That was THE most enjoyable part of book 2, the train-wreck; David’s antics and Helena’s reactions towards him, which is no longer loathing but an attraction that she doesn’t want but can’t help feeling. Helena has been this way since he stole a few kisses from her. Then he presents her with the manuscript of his erotic story The Bride of Larkspear to publish (and, to annoy Helena of course). This erotica is actually his sexual fantasies of Helena, poured in through his honest narratives and drawings. FYI: Helena is an heiress on her own, from some distant relatives and owns a publishing house. She also prints Martins’ research books (or, whatever they are). But she won’t print David’s. I’ve some fond memories of her taking peeks of the story and erotic sketches done by David and getting wet... *heehee* Yep, she was a hypocrite no doubt.

Then on the course of the story, David keep dropping hints that Helena must stop her affair, which will ruin her and her family. But she, being the stubborn, stupid and selfish b*tch that she was, never used her brain and carried on. Helen’s family tried to keep her away but that proved to be harder than it looked. David, the poor soul, who still thought about having a little chance with her someday, kept guarding her in his own way, though Helena was never grateful to him. She starts hating him even more when he exposed her affair to her family, a necessary action no doubt. I still enjoyed their banters, every single one of them. I also felt for David and his insanity or love for Helena. Since I was burned in book 2, I was scared that I would end up seeing something unpalatable about David. But no. He NEVER once disappointed me.

David was utterly delicious in every way possible; handsome, devoted and I can go on and on. He is NOT a rake per say, even though he has an illegitimate child. David’s activities were mostly a façade to let Helena think the worst of him. He had so much hidden depth, that those attracted me like a moth to a flame. At times I ended up crying over his anguish because Helena would always push him away. But she was not to blame entirely, and so, I also wanted to smack him for being so prideful and not coming out with the truth long time ago. I had many questions about the whys and hows of Helena and David’s enmity that tracks back to the beginning of time... well, not the beginning of time but since they both were 14 and first met through Fitz. Along the story, I also got to know why David was the way he was, that being hurtful was only a defense mechanism. He has had his share of hurts in his childhood and had to save himself anyway possible. If you read his musings about how hopeless his cause of Helena was (at least to him), it’d just tug at your heart. We get to know how, even on that young an age, David fell like a heavy log for Helena on his very first sight of her, and how he turned horrible because she never really saw him that way. David would do just about anything to get Helena’s attentions, and in the process, mucking things up. He himself knows that he’s been horrid to her, always making snide comments or leering gazes. Helena always took him at face value. But inside, he burned for her, never quite knowing how to express himself. Helena never gave him any change, demolished him with her words and he fought back her disdains in his own nasty way.

I would like to be back to the story at present, where Millie and Fitz just found out that they’re in love, something that leaves David restless. What should he do about his own love of life? The woman would take any risk to communicate with Martin. David will also save her at any cost, if it means marrying her to save her reputation. Stupid? Insane? Inane even? Or, just place loco? Yes but David was for Helena. The opportunity to make her his falls on to his lap easier than he’d expected. Because of some snoop, Helena and David find themselves in a hotel room, together (with Martin hidden away in the bathroom) in front of the said snoop and Martin’s mother. Don’t ask! So, David had to tell them that they’ve eloped and married. When the intruders go away, Helena is mad angry at David for making ‘this mess’, as usual no thanks and no acknowledgements of her own stupidities. Trust me, when later on, some of the stories of David’s taunting was revealed, I could see why she despised him so but still, carrying on with a married man was her own mistake. Helena just wanted to break the convention, but she didn’t consider what affect her ‘rebellions’ would have on her own family. What should I call her, I’m not sure.

David is hurt by her words but he ruthlessly mows down any emotion. He’d do what needs to be done. But on the day they announce to Helena’s family about their reluctant engagement and hatch a plan to announce that they’re married to save her reputation, disaster strikes, thanks to Helena. She goes out the door to chase Martin and suffers a bad accident. David felt his life half-diminished by the sight of her fallen and bloodied. He is scared to death. He stays up and vigil by her all those three hellish days while Helena is unconscious, not knowing if she’ll live or die. David begins talking and reading to her. That was just so heartbreaking. At one point, David even cries for the first time and speaks of his love to her unconscious ears, a love that ate him all these years. A love, about which everyone in Helena’s family was aware of but willfully blind self.

When Helena regains consciousness, it was soon revealed that she has amnesia. And it’s quite a bad one too, at least 13 yrs of her life almost wiped away. She learns that she has aged, as did her siblings. That she has a husband now, of whom she remembers nothing at all. It must’ve been scary and I felt of her. Now, I really liked this amnesia-ridden Helena better than the real one. She proved to be super cool and smart all around. She starts learning her surrounding, taking in whatever she can. She learns about her siblings and their spouses (Helena remembers nothing about Millie or Christian). And she finds that she likes her husband, a lot. David, when Helena was unconscious, had promised to himself that he won’t hold back anymore. He doesn’t and in the process, proceeds to take away a piece of my heart with each of his gestures and words. This David stays with Helena. They have very civilized, even entertaining, conversations that ranges from David and Helena’s childhood antics, David’s own life and daughter, his feelings for Helena and his adorably fluffy and curly hair, which now Helena finds very attractive. Then again, she now finds everything about David attractive, still no knowing how things were between them.

They decide to move to David’s townhouse when she’s a bit better. Helena wants to meet Bea, David’s 6 yrs old daughter. I wasn’t repelled by this fact, because David was a devoted father, even though Bea’s mother was a Cyprian and died soon after her birth. I wish there were more exploration as to David’s reactions about parenthood back then. But when David took her in after her mother’s death, he settled Bea with a nanny, who, he later heard, had physically abused the baby. David felt so guilty of not taking proper care of her that he broke the conventions and took Bea in his own household. Before Helena met Bea, we meet her. She’s not an entirely normal child, as I read in one review, probably a borderline aspergic. I found her adorable all around. David’s patience, observation and love for her were palpable. Bea returned it in her own way, there was no doubt about it. David had already painted her tearoom with beautiful pictures, wrote and illustrated stories to make her happy. He always finds time for her. If he’s delayed in London for some reasons, Bea is upset and hides in her ‘trunk’, which has been specially adjusted for her use. Everything, every single interaction of David and Bea stole my heart. How can I not love this man? He was amazing and he proved to be a super father. That man surprised me at every turn.

Helena begins remembering things in bits and pieces, but not David. Not even Martin. She doesn’t remember him at all when he comes to call. Later David explains a part of the truth, her feelings for Martin, which this Helena finds unbelievable. How could she have fallen for this man, and not David? At David’s townhouse, Helena and David grow closer and end up making love. Even knowing that she’d probably hate him for this when her memory returns, he goes with the idea. David was already astonished to find her still a virgin. Even then, it was such a tremendous turn of event for him. It’s his dream come true after such a prolonged wait! The rain falling down on his Sahara and him soaking it all up greedily.

When London season breaks up, both decide to leave for David’s estate to meet Bea. But on the way, more of Helena’s memory returns, many of which include David and how things were between them. Helena immediately distances herself from him, being rude and short-tempered. Yep, she’s not happy about having sex with him after all. I understood her reactions and confusions, memories boring down on her like this, so I couldn’t really blame her, even though my heart still broke for David. He has been dreading this. David requests Helena that she doesn’t take out her anger on Bea. Helena wasn’t that bad thankfully, all her ill-will is mainly for David. Her and Bea’s introduction was also heart-tugging. As they spend time together, mainly for Bea, Helena begins to see just how weird life is. She can’t put two and two of this man together; this devoted and infinitely patient father because Bea needed it all, the painter and the man who simply wants to make his daughter happy. And now he claims that he wants to make her happy too. Even though she maintains her distance, Helena can’t help but really see the man. ‘The Boy Who Leered’ at her is nothing like she’d ever imagined him to be. Miracles of miracles, he’s actually a splendid man! David’s various hidden talents, passions and his obsession over her makes Helena weaker. Bea also steals her affections.

At one point, to clarify just how deep his obsession, love, fantasy (whatever you call it) of Helena runs, David again leaves a copy of The Bride of Larkspear to her. Helena wouldn’t read at first, and she doesn’t remember about it from before. But then, curiosity wins over. She reads a few chosen paragraphs (by David) and those just leave her breathless... wanting to ravish David. Then Helena makes a plan of her own that goes with a specific scene of the book. She now wants him, and she knows that she loves him. Some of my favorite moments involve this erotic story. I loved and enjoyed what Helena planned for David to bits but I wasn’t expecting the mess that ST creates the very next day after their blissful night together that ends with a plan of hasty marriage with a special license. She finally remembers Martin and the whole sob story of her ‘precious little love’ for him. God, I hated, HATED that part! David is hurt by her abominable behavior and immediately reverts to his façade. But then he apologizes when Helena raves and rants at him for being a lecher and ‘taking advantage of her situation’. I mean WTF b*tch???? David reminds her that she insisted on having sex on both accounts but the truth makes her even angrier. Lord, I wanted to shove Helena down the window, bidding her good riddance and asking David to forget about her. I mean, that was one horrible turn of events. It’s not as if she forgot what he’d done for her, the kindness and the eagerness to make her happy, the declaration of his love through his erotic story (what a gesture!) and still, she goes back to her old b*tchy self. I wished Martin’s part of her life remained forgotten in some unused part of her mind!

She maintains her distance to torture David. What can he do? He has tried and she chooses to stay away from him even after everything. David is still adamant about the marriage when suddenly a new development occurs. Martin’s estranged wife comes to Helena with a request. Martin the whiner won’t give her a divorce but she wants one to move on with her life. It’s no secret that they don’t have anything in common. If Helena agrees to marry Martin, only then he’d think about it. I feel so mad every time I think of what she does and how she hurts David in turn, again. I’m glad that ST didn’t drag this and spared me from killing Helena for being the stupidest b*tch that ever lived. While returning from her visit to Martin, Helena remembers something special about David, bits and pieces of memories from her unconscious days that involves David’s voice; him talking to her, reciting poems or acting out stories, and then the declaration of his love. It would’ve been super, had she not made me despise her by returning to Martin to discuss the possibility of a marriage. And I still don’t understand how ST thought to justify Helena’s sudden feelings for David (with her memory back) and that he is the one who deserves her love and not Martin through this. I thought Helena said she was already in love with David before she got back her memory of Martin. I just couldn’t really see the point because before the last mess, I thought when she gets back her memory about Martin, she’d still have her present memory and can compare who is more deserving. Apparently she never grew brain! In the end, I was only happy for David.

Anyway, I still wish the story was longer because this whole push and pull of their relationship needed to show some stability. The ending felt abrupt, with a really unsatisfactory epilogue. I NEEDED to see their life together, for once, without all these enmity. Also, I could’ve used some update on the other two couples, this being the last story and all that. Still, this book was more than worth it for David, for whom, I wanted it to continue and certainly the best installment of the trilogy. 4.5 stars.

PS: If you haven’t already, The Bride of Larkspear: A Fitzhugh Trilogy Erotic Novella is now available!
Favorite Quote(s)
She fluttered her fan. “And do you know what they say of women of a certain age, what they want above all?”
Desire simmered in him at her not quite smile. “Do tell.”
“To be rid of you, Hastings. So that they don’t have to waste what remains of their precious few years suffering your lecherous looks.”
“If I stopped looking at you lecherously, you’d miss it.”
“Why don’t we test that hypothesis? You stop and I’ll tell you after ten years or so whether I miss it.”

....
He rose and bowed slightly. “You wouldn’t last two weeks, Miss Fitzhugh.” 
The worst thing about falling in love with her so early in life was that he’d been an absolute snot at fourteen, at once arrogant and self-pitying. Almost as bad was the fact that he’d been nearly half a foot shorter than she at their first meeting —she’d been five foot nine, and he barely five foot four. Though she was only a few weeks older than he was, she’d looked upon him as a child—while he broiled with the heat and anguish of first love.
When nothing else garnered him her attention, he turned horrid. She was disgusted by this midget who tried to trick her into broom closets to steal kisses, and he was at once miserable and thrilled. Disgust was better than indifference; anything was better than indifference.
And when the governess had left, he would slip out of his own room and peer at her door until her light was extinguished at last, before he returned to bed to stew anew in lust and yearning.
A habit that he’d kept to this day, whenever they happened to be under the same roof.
Her light turned off. He sighed. How long would he keep at this? Soon he would be twenty-seven. Did he still plan to stand in a dark passage in the middle of the night and gaze upon her door when he was thirty-seven? Forty-seven? Ninetyseven?
“I’ve always loved you,” he said, his eyes a blue that was almost violet. “You know this.” She swallowed a lump in her throat. “I only wonder whether I deserve such devotion.”
“Sometimes people fall in love with those who do not return the same strength of feelings. It is as it is,” he said with a quiet intensity. “What I give, I give freely. You owe me nothing, not love, not friendship, not even obligation.”
His voice, however, was utterly velvety—if an upholstered wrecking ball
could be called velvety. “I won’t need to try, my dear. My touch will burn away his.”
She couldn’t breathe.
“You were always quiet in his bed,” he went on, “but you won’t be in mine. You will scream with pleasure—and you will do it again and again.” 
This time he could no longer hold back his tears. And with them came words that he’d never been able to say to her his entire life. “I love you, Helena. I have always loved you. Wake up and let me prove it to you.” 
“What did you do to your hair? I don’t like it as much.”
His brow knitted. “How do you like it?”
“I prefer the curls.”
He looked as if she’d told him she preferred him with three eyes. “You used to make fun of them. You told me that if Bo Peep had a child with one of her sheep it would have hair like mine.”
She burst out laughing—and gasped at the pain that shot through her scalp. “You are not making it up, are you? Did I really say that?”
“Sometimes you called me Goldilocks.”
She had to remind herself not to laugh again. “And you married me? I sound like a very odious sort of girl.”
“I was a very odious sort of boy, so you might say we were evenly matched.”
She didn’t know enough to comment upon that, but when he was near, she was… happier.
Her hand reached up and took a strand of his hair between her fingers. “Simple as that.”
She gently pulled on that curl and let it go. “It’s so springy.”
They’d barely grazed at the truth, but I she was satisfied—and distracted. By his hair, of all things.
“I feel like a sheep that has been overlooked during spring shearing,” he murmured.
“Yes, adorably fluffy.”
Another time he might have protested the use of that adjective. But now he was all too relieved. “Would you like me to pull my chair closer, so you may fondle my hair with greater ease?” he asked.
She beamed at him. “Why, yes, I’d like exactly that.” 
He climbed into bed himself and kissed his way up her legs. Instincts she didn’t even know she possessed made her clench her thighs together. Without any hesitation, he pushed them apart, exposing her to his gaze.
“The doors of the temple, darling, never close to the devout acolyte.”

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I love to read in my spare time and do reviews the books I read. My blog Punya Reviews just turned 6 in 2017 and still going strong. I love music and traveling. Sometimes, I wish I could live inside a book, having my own HEA. :)
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